Professor NeJaime Launches Coalition to Protect LGBT Parents and their Children

Anne Urowsky Professor of Law Douglas NeJaime announced the creation of the Connecticut Parentage Act Coalition on May 8, 2019, with the goal of reforming state law to protect same-sex couples and their children.

“As one of the first states to extend the right to marry to same-sex couples, Connecticut has long been at the vanguard of LGBT equality,” said NeJaime. “We are proud to build on this important legacy through the Connecticut Parentage Act Coalition.”

Early next year, the Coalition will propose legislation based on the Uniform Parentage Act of 2017, a model law on which NeJaime worked. Promulgated by the Uniform Law Commission — a nonpartisan group of judges, expert attorneys, and state legislators — the 2017 UPA seeks to recognize both parents in same-sex couples and in all families formed through assisted reproduction, providing legal protection for thousands of Connecticut families.

The Coalition is composed of Yale Law School students and faculty, local stakeholders, and leading civil rights groups, including the GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) — the same organization that litigated Connecticut’s landmark 2008 marriage equality case, Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health. NeJaime and Law School students have coordinated their legislative efforts with members of the General Assembly, judges of the family and probate courts, state fertility clinics, child welfare groups, LGBT rights organizations, and the Connecticut Bar Association.

The Coalition’s proposed reforms would modernize state parentage law to apply equally to same-sex couples. “Connecticut does not currently provide equal recognition to same-sex parents and other parents not related to their children by blood,” said NeJaime. “Under current law, a non-biological parent may be treated as a legal stranger to her child, unable to make vital medical and educational decisions. If the couple breaks up, the child’s relationship with the non-biological parent may be forcibly severed, regardless of the trauma inflicted on the child.”

Equal protection of same-sex couples is required under both the federal and state constitutions. “Pursuant to Obergefell and Kerrigan, LGBT parents and their children must be treated with equal dignity and respect,” said Matt Nguyen ’19, a founding member of the Coalition. “At its core, our Coalition’s advocacy aims to vindicate this constitutional principle for all families.”

Consistent with the 2017 UPA, the Coalition also seeks to amend Connecticut law to address medical and scientific advances in reproduction. The proposed legislation would recognize that when individuals — whether married or unmarried, gay or straight, women or men — use assisted reproduction to have children (for example, through in vitro fertilization or surrogacy) the individuals who intend to parent the child are recognized as the child’s legal parents.

The Coalition’s proposed reforms are also aimed at promoting children’s welfare. “Longstanding research on child development shows that kids thrive best when they have safe and secure parent-child bonds,” said Nguyen. “These reforms will ensure that when a non-biological parent has lovingly raised her child for many years, that parent-child relationship is legally protected.”

To learn more, please visit the Coalition’s website.